(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
U.S. COVID-19 deaths near 190,000
Coronavirus deaths in the United States were approaching 190,000 on Wednesday along with a spike in new cases in the U.S. Midwest, with states such as Iowa and South Dakota emerging as the new hotspots in the past few weeks.
Iowa currently has one of the highest rates of infection in the nation, with 15% of tests last week coming back positive. Nearby South Dakota has a positive test rate of 19% and North Dakota is at 18%, according to a Reuters analysis.
The surge in Iowa and South Dakota is being linked to colleges reopening in Iowa and an annual motorcycle rally last month in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Kansas, Idaho and Missouri are also among the top 10 states for positive test rates. [nL1N2G303V
AstraZeneca pauses vaccine trial
AstraZeneca has paused global trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine after an unexplained illness in a participant, a move seen as dimming prospects for an early rollout.
On Tuesday, the British drugmaker said it voluntarily paused trials, including late-stage ones, to allow an independent committee to review safety data, and it was working to expedite the review to minimise any potential impact on the trial timeline.
The vaccine, which AstraZeneca is developing with the University of Oxford, has been described by the World Health Organization as probably the world’s leading candidate and the most advanced in terms of development.
Low positive test rate in Sweden
Sweden carried out a record number of new coronavirus tests last week with only 1.2% coming back positive, the health agency said on Tuesday. That is the lowest rate since the pandemic began, and it comes at a time when other European countries are seeing surges in infections.
Sweden avoided a lockdown and instead emphasized personal responsibility, social distancing and good hygiene in a bid to slow rather than eradicate a disease deemed here to stay. The strategy drew fierce criticism home and abroad as deaths shot up during the spring but has also been lauded by WHO officials as a sustainable model.
More than 5,800 people with the disease have died, many times higher per capita than in neighbouring Nordic countries but lower than Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Gatherings of more than six to be banned in England
Tough new lockdown restrictions on social gatherings across the whole of England are to be announced on Wednesday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to control a spike in COVID-19 infections.
From Sept. 14, groups of more than six people will be banned from meeting and fined if they fail to comply, Johnson will say.
The number of cases in Britain has begun to rise sharply again in recent days. Although testing is more widespread and the number of people in hospital is well below the peak of the outbreak, ministers fear it is beginning to slip out of control.
The previous limit on the number of people who could socialise together was 30.
Mystery case in Thailand
Thailand said it had tested nearly 600 people potentially exposed to the country’s first domestic coronavirus case in over three months, but has so far found no new infections.
The man, 37, had worked as a nightclub DJ at three different venues in the capital Bangkok in the two weeks before he tested positive on arrival in prison following a conviction for a drugs-related offence.
How the man became infected remains a mystery, with all of Thailand’s recent cases, typically less than a handful each day, detected in state quarantine among people returning from abroad.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Peter Graff)